Information, meaning and physics: The intellectual evolution of the English School of Information Theory during 1946-1956

Science in Context 34 (3):357-373 (2021)
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Abstract

ArgumentIn this comparative historical analysis, we will analyze the intellectual tendency that emerged between 1946 and 1956 to take advantage of the popularity of communication theory to develop a kind of informational epistemology of statistical mechanics. We will argue that this tendency results from a historical confluence in the early 1950s of certain theoretical claims of the so-called English School of Information Theory, championed by authors such as Gabor (1956) or MacKay (1969), and from the attempt to extend the profound success of Shannon’s ([1948] 1993) technical theory of sign transmission to the field of statistical thermal physics. As a paradigmatic example of this tendency, we will evaluate the intellectual work of Léon Brillouin (1956), who, in the mid-fifties, developed an information theoretical approach to statistical mechanical physics based on a concept of information linked to the knowledge of the observer.

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Javier Anta
Universidad de Sevilla

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References found in this work

Knowledge and the Flow of Information.Fred I. Dretske - 1981 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 175 (1):69-70.
Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.N. Wiener - 1948 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141:578-580.
A Mathematical Theory of Communication.Claude Elwood Shannon - 1948 - Bell System Technical Journal 27 (April 1924):379–423.
Semantic information.Yehoshua Bar-Hillel & Rudolf Carnap - 1953 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4 (14):147-157.
An Outline of a Theory of Semantic Information.Rudolf Carnap & Yehoshua Bar-Hillel - 1954 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 19 (3):230-232.

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